Intended for healthcare professionals


Are prolific authors too much of a good thing?

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 01 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h2782

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Elizabeth Wager, publications consultant
  1. 1Princes Risborough, UK
  1. liz{at}

Dominant authors can lead to an imbalance of power within an evidence base

According to a linked article by Holleman and colleagues,1 diabetes research is dominated by a few dozen prolific researchers, a handful so productive that they were designated “supertrialists.” Holleman and colleagues examined randomised controlled trials of glucose lowering drugs published in the 20 years up to 2013, and found that roughly a third (32.4%) of reports were published by less than 1% (110 of 13 592) of authors. The most prolific individuals were named on seven trial reports, on average, every year for the last 10 years. Holleman and colleagues’ study did not determine how many separate trials were reported by these articles, but even assuming that large trials generate several publications, they found that some authors had an extraordinary output. In a similar study of prolific authors,2 the 10 most productive in each of four medical specialties were named on at least one publication per 10 working days each year, showing that the issue is not restricted to diabetes research.

Making a meaningful contribution to both the research and publication processes, as required by authorship criteria from the International Committee of Medical Journal …

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